Behavioural response of sicklefin lemon sharks negaprion acutidens to underwater feeding for ecotourism purposes

Eric Clua*, Nicolas Buray, Pierre Legendre, Johann Mourier, Serge Planes

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    92 Citations (Scopus)

    Abstract

    The feeding of marine predators is a popular means by which tourists and tour operators can facilitate close observation and interaction with wildlife. Shark-feeding has become the most developed provisioning activity around the world, despite its controversial nature. Amongst other detrimental effects, the long-term aggregation of sharks can modify the natural behaviour of the animals, potentially increase their aggression toward humans, and favour inbreeding. During 949 diving surveys conducted over 44 mo, we investigated the ecology and residence patterns of 36 photoidentified adult sicklefin lemon sharks Negaprion acutidens. The group contained 20 females and 16 males. From this long-term survey, we identified 5 different behavioural groups that we described as 'new sharks' (7), 'missing sharks' (4), 'resident sharks' (13), 'unpredictable sharks' (5) and 'ghost sharks' (7). In spite of movements in and out of the area by some males and females, which were probably related to mating, the general trend was that residency significantly increased during the study, particularly in males, showing a risk of inbreeding due to the reduction of shark mobility. Intraand interspecific aggression was also witnessed, leading to an increased risk of potentially severe bites to humans. Our findings suggest the need for a revision of the legal framework of the provisioning activity in French Polynesia, which could include a yearly closure period to decrease shark behavioural modifications due to long-term shark-feeding activities.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)257-266
    Number of pages10
    JournalMarine Ecology Progress Series
    Volume414
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 2010

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